Eyelid Inflammation (Blepharitis) in Dogs

Key Takeaways

Blepharitis describes inflammation of the eyelids affecting one or both eyes. Eyelid inflammation is a common presentation in dogs with a variety of underlying triggers.

• Dogs with blepharitis present with red, swollen eyes and usually wink or blink repeatedly

• Some dogs have discharge from the eyes, and often scratch or rub the affected area along the floor

• Blepharitis results from many different disease processes including infection, allergy, eyelid abnormalities, autoimmune disease, injury, or eyelid masses

• Investigation of blepharitis aims to identify the underlying trigger and involves physical examination, eye examination, and skin or blood testing

• Treatment options include direct treatment of blepharitis, such as anti-inflammatory eye drops, alongside treatment of the underlying trigger

• Prognosis varies depending on the underlying cause

• Most cases respond to medication but some diseases are recurrent and require long term treatment

A Closer Look: What is Blepharitis in Dogs?

Blepharitis is a common, and distressing, presentation in dogs but is not life-threatening. Blepharitis is a symptom of many different disease processes. Any disease that affects the eye, or the area around the eye, can result in self-induced injury and irritation, leading to blepharitis.

Blepharitis normally requires treatment, and delay in seeking veterinary treatment may result in complications such as  severe ocular disease and blindness. Cases of blepharitis require prompt veterinary attention.

Risk Factors

The severity of symptoms of blepharitis is relative to the severity of the underlying trigger. Dogs that persistently itch or rub their eyes on the floor have more severe blepharitis, regardless of the trigger. Given the wide range of diseases that are associated with blepharitis, any dog may be at risk of developing it. Dogs with predisposing factors for common causes of blepharitis are at highest risk. Senior dogs and young puppies are most at risk of developing diseases associated with blepharitis.

Possible Causes

Some examples of diseases associated with blepharitis include:

Demodectic mange

Sarcoptic mange

• Bacterial infections such as styes

• Fungal infections such as ringworm (dermatophytosis)

• Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (Dry eye)

Eyelid and lash disorders

Inhalant allergies (atopic dermatitis)

Food allergies

• Eyelid adenomas or papillomas (usually benign in dogs)

Hypothyroidism 

Hyperadrenocorticism

• Traumatic injuries to the eye

• Irritants such as smoke or dust

Main Symptoms

Symptoms of blepharitis include:

• Eye pain

Eye discharge

Itchiness around the eyes

• Blepharospasm (repeated blinking or winking)

• Red eye

• Swelling of the eyes and eyelids

Hair loss around the eyelids

Testing and Diagnosis

Further investigation of blepharitis involves:

• Physical examination

• Allergy testing

• Skin scrapes for parasites

• Culture and sensitivity for bacterial infections

• Blood work

• Biopsy of masses

In addition, a specialized eye exam may include:

• Schirmer Tear Test

• Fluorescein dye

• Ocular pressure measurement

Steps to Recovery

Treatment of blepharitis aims to alleviate the symptoms while addressing the underlying disease process. Medications may include:

• Antibiotics

• Antifungal

• Antiparasitics

• Treatment of hormonal conditions where appropriate

• Steroids or other anti-itch medication

• Anti-inflammatory medications

In addition, supportive care may include:

• Hot compresses to reduce swelling

• Use of an Elizabethan collar

• Routine cleaning of the eye

In some cases, surgery to remove masses may be indicated.

Prognosis varies depending on the underlying cause. Infectious conditions normally resolve with treatment and carry an excellent prognosis, whereas underlying disease such as dry eye normally respond well to treatment but require lifelong therapy.

Prevention

Prevention depends on the underlying disease. Routine use of veterinary approved antiparasitics prevents parasitic blepharitis. Other underlying diseases are spontaneous and cannot be prevented, but prompt veterinary treatment of diseases resulting in ocular irritation or pain may prevent blepharitis from developing. Keeping up with routine checkups and vaccinations helps maximize overall health and aids in early detection of many conditions.

Is Blepharitis Common in Dogs?

Blepharitis is common in dogs.

Typical Treatment

• Antibiotics

• Antifungal

• Antiparasitics

• Treatment of hormonal conditions where appropriate

• Steroids or other anti-itching medication

• Hot compresses to reduce swelling

• Use of an elizabethan collar

• Surgery

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